You're wondering how I got this thing stuck in my panties? It defies reason.
The pulpification of ancient literature takes another strange turn as Edizioni Le Lucciole presents this 1970 paperback L'antiragione, or “the anti-reason,” which, incredibly, is a collection of writings by the Greek astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus of Samos, the guy who lived from 310 to 230 B.C. and presented the first model that placed the Sun at the center of the known universe with the Earth in orbit around it. Yeah. And when you can solve a mystery that vast, the question of how a femme fatale got a hoop stuck in her undies is really nothing. The art, which conversely is really something, is by the always great Benedetto Caroselli.
Where there's a will-o'-the-wisp there's a way.
We probably should have shared this cover from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's series KKK Classics around Halloween, because it's a bit scary. Then again, maybe now is better, because Christmas is possibly even a little scarier. The art here, from Benedetto Caroselli, has a red-eyed cover figure sitting atop what is supposed to be a giant skull, which, again, is a bit scary. However, if you look at it the right way she could be sitting on a giant nose. Again, possibly even scarier.
Inside the book you get two tales—the introductory “Welcome to Blackstone, Mister Clift,” by Silvano Alessandrini, followed by the full length title story. Fuochi fatui, by the way, translates as “fatuous fires.” What the hell does that mean? Fuochi fatui are basically analogous to will-o'-the-wisps, alluring lights in the wilderness that prove eternally elusive and lead to frustration and possibly danger. You can fill in your own Christmas shopping metaphor here.
Author Sean Alexander was aka Silvano Alessandrini. The pseudonym thing with French and Italian authors back in the day is a bit strange. Since they were selling to their home markets you'd think indigenous names would be an advantage, but it's clear that the type of mayhem and terror they were going for were thought to be more credible if written by Americans. Which when you think about it is possibly the scariest thing of all. Anyway, the copyright on this is 1969, and it's beautiful.
“The Thing” that wasn't there.
We've shared several covers from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's horror collection I Capolavori della Serie KKK but this one is kind of special. Translated into Italian by Fernanda Adami, this is a collection of horror master Robert Bloch's early short stories. In case he isn't familiar to you, he wrote Psycho. This book is called La Cosa, or The Thing because Bloch's first story, a piece called “The Thing” appeared in his school magazine in 1932 when Bloch was only fourteen. But guess what? “The Thing” isn't one of the stories in The Thing. Instead the book consists of four tales—“Colui che apre la via,” “Ritorno a Sabbath,” “Il segreto di Sebek,” and “Enoch.” In English these are “The Opener of the Way,” “Return of the Sabbath,” “The Secret of Sebek,” and “Otis.” Just kidding—it's “Enoch.” Lovecraft fans probably already know of the first three stories because they appeared in Bloch's Lovecraft inspired collection The Opener of the Way in 1945 and remain widely read pieces of Lovecraftian lore. So that makes this paperback a bit of a collector's item. As if the great art by Benedetto Caroselli didn't already do that. Yes, he painted a misleading illustration for a horror anthology but Caroselli and Grandi Edizioni Internazionali specialized in that. Want to see a particularly brazen example? Check here.
I usually wear floor length hoop skirts but for certain occasions this crimson mini is just the number.
Sometimes when classic literature was remarketed for mid-century audiences the pulp style makeovers were stretches. But in this case it works. Le amicizie pericolose is a 1964 Italian translation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's 1782 French epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, aka Dangerous Liaisons. The story features one of history's greatest femmes fatales—Marquise de Merteuil, whose pride and sexual vanity is the seed of an unspeakable tragedy. There's also an homme fatale—the serial seducer Vicomte de Valmont, whose dick eventually gets him in a crack so tight he can't escape.
The book has been filmed six times, and cinephiles argue which version is the best. While Glenn Close as the Marquise in 1988's Dangerous Liaisons was astounding, and Annette Bening's turn as the character in 1989's Valmont was also good, we recommend checking out Roger Vadim's 1959 adaptation, which was set in modern day Paris. Actually, even the 1999 Gen-X version Cruel Intentions is pretty good, which just goes to show how rich the source material is. There are also Korean and Chinese versions from 2003 and 2012 respectively.
The amazing femme fatale in red mini-dress and spike heels on the Grandi Edizioni Internazionali edition above—who of course looks nothing like the hoop skirted and white-powdered Marquise de Merteuil described by Laclos—was painted by the abundantly talented Bendetto Caroselli. Repackaging classics in this way (such as we've shown you before here and here) is usually a form of false advertising, but in this case we suspect many readers came away satisfied.
These are people who definitely pay attention to the poles.
When you look at lots of paperbacks sometimes a common thread suddenly jumps out at you that went unnoticed before. Such was the case a few weeks ago when we noticed the large number of characters on mid-century covers leaning against poles—light poles, telephone poles, sign poles, etc. We suggested someone should put together a collection, but of course we really meant us, so today you see above and below various characters deftly using these features of the urban streetscape as accessories. Art is from Benedetto Caroselli, Harry Schaare, George Gross, Rudolph Belarski, James Avati, et al. You can see a couple more examples here and here.
Even the Prince of Darkness needs love.
Italian illustrator Bendetto Caroselli painted this cover for Cuori per Satana, which means “hearts for Satan,” and it was written by Silver Ales for I Capolavori della Serie KKK's series Classici dell'Orrore, and published by Edizioni Periodici Italiani in 1968. Silver Ales was a pseudonym used by Silvano Alessandrini, a prolific poet, playwright, author of twenty-six detective novels, and longtime school teacher. His weird pen name sounds like a category of fancy microbrews, but we approve—it definitely sticks in the head. And of course Benedetto Caroselli was an artistic genius, which you can confirm yourself by looking here and here.
Getting into the spirit of things.
A bit more foreign paperback art today. Among the pantheon of excellent vintage paperback artists, Benedetto Caroselli has become a favorite, as our many posts of his work attest. He painted this cover in 1964 for Sheila Norman's L'anima nuda, or "naked spirit," which was number thirty-three in Grandi Edizioni Nazionali's macabre series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell'Orrore. Norman was a pseudonym for Oretta Emmolo, who also wrote as Christoph Bonig, Valerie Greeves, and Reg Sattle. We have plenty more Caroselli art in the website. Just click here.
The shape of bad things to come.
Above and below are assorted covers featuring yet another fun mid-century paperback art motif—the looming or threatening shadow. The covers are by the usual suspects—Rader, Phillips, Gross, Caroselli, Nik, as well as by artists whose work you see less often, such as Tony Carter’s brilliant cover for And Turned to Clay. That's actually a dust jacket, rather than a paperback front, but we couldn't leave it out. You’ll also notice French publishers really liked this theme. We’ll doubtless come across more, and as we do we’ll add to the collection. This is true of all our cover collections. For instance, our post featuring the Eiffel Tower has grown from fifteen to twenty-two examples, and our group of fronts with syringes has swelled from thirteen to twenty-six images. We have
twenty-four twenty-eight—see what we mean?—more shadow covers below, and thanks to all original uploaders.
Giovanni Simonelli was a virtual one-man industry in Italian cinema.
It’s been too long, so today we’re back to the incomprable Benedetto Caroselli, with a cover he painted for L’incubo scarlatto, aka “The Scarlet Nightmare,” by Simon O’Neil for EPI’s I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore, 1970. O’Neil would have been an Italian writer working under a pseudonym, and in this case it was Giovanni Simonelli, who wrote about seventy-five screenplays between 1958 and 1998. Some of those gems include L’uomo dalla pistola d’oro, released in English as Doc Hands of Steel, Dos pistolas gemelas, aka Sharp Shooting Twin Sisters, and Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l’inferno.
L’incubo scarlatto is set in London and involves a woman who thinks she might be a vampire because men around her keep turning up violently killed. Considering one was her potential rapist and another was a sadistic drug lord, they both deserved it, but she needs to know the truth and pairs up with a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of the mystery. Simonelli did more than write macabre books and scripts. He also directed, composed music, and even acted in two movies, appearing in 1966’s Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt, aka Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill, under the name Sim O’Neill. Quite a career. We wouldn’t be surprised to run across his work again. Meantime, you can see plenty more art from Benedetto Caroselli here.
Where it stops looking good nobody knows.
Below, a selection of beautiful Benedetto Caroselli covers for ERP’s giallo series I Narratori Americani del Brivido, with various Italian authors such as Aldo Crudo and Mario Pinzauti writing under Anglicized pseudonyms. We have much more from Caroselli. Just click and scroll.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
In Detective Comics #27, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero, Batman, who becomes one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and then a popular camp television series starring Adam West, and lastly a multi-million dollar movie franchise starring Michael Keaton, then George Clooney, and finally Christian Bale.
1953—Crick and Watson Publish DNA Results
British scientists James D Watson and Francis Crick publish an article detailing their discovery of the existence and structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in Nature magazine. Their findings answer one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of biology, that of how living things reproduce themselves.
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
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